Jesus Is the Prophet Sent by God to Help Us . . .
O Lord, our blessed God and Savior, we come before You this day in grateful adoration. You have delivered us from sin and death. You walk beside us each day to strengthen and guide us. You listen to our prayers and answer them in the best possible way. May we humbly rejoice in Your presence, listen attentively to Your Word, and serve You faithfully all the days of our lives. Amen.
God’s covenant with His Old Testament people of Israel was confirmed by the shedding of blood—blood which was sprinkled on the people. That blood pictured for the people the blood of the promised Savior, through which their sins would be removed and their salvation secured.
Paul urges each of us to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” We are called to be God’s children, blessed with heavenly gifts and united in service to one another. God’s goal for us is that we grow in faith and love, so that we might be “filled with all the fullness of God.”
In spite of the witness of John the Baptizer, Jesus’ many miracles, and the testimony of the Scriptures, the vast majority of people in Jesus’ day did not accept Him. How sad! The same thing unfortunately happens today. May we accept the witness of God regarding His Son as we find it recorded in Scripture.
Text: John 6:1-15
After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs, which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples. “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
In Christ Jesus, the Son of God sent to deliver us from all evil, dear fellow redeemed:
“A picture is worth a thousand words!” That is why children’s books have so many pictures, and why even advanced textbooks will include illustrations. Good teachers will seek to illustrate the points they want to make or involve their students in experiments, so that which is heard, is reinforced by that which is seen and done. However, there are times when even illustrations fail to make the intended point, and other times when those illustrations make the point, but those learning the point fail to apply the point properly.
That is what happened to Jesus when He performed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus’ miracle illustrated His person and power. Those who witnessed the miracle understood that here was “truly the Prophet who (Moses said was) to come into the world.” However, the very people who were led by this powerful illustration of power to understand that Jesus was the Prophet—the promised Savior—then turned around and wanted to make Jesus into a “bread-king”—someone who would provide for all of their earthly needs without any effort on their part. Jesus response was to withdraw from them in view of their false understanding.
My dear friends, what appropriate applications would Jesus have us make today as we consider this same miracle, which illustrates so well both who He is and what He can do? I would suggest that we are to learn this that JESUS IS THE PROPHET SENT BY GOD TO HELP US, first of all, address every one of our problems, secondly, to explore all of our possibilities, and finally to experience His unlimited potential! May God bless our study this day!
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand took place at the height of Jesus’ popular ministry just one year before His death. John mentions in our text that “the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.” It would be at the Passover the very next year that Jesus would be betrayed and ultimately crucified. While vast crowds were following Jesus at this time, our text indicates that many of these people were following Jesus for the wrong reasons—“a great multitude followed Him (Jesus), because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” Jesus’ miracles were not intended to be an end in and of themselves, but rather were intended to serve as a confirmation of the fact that Jesus was the Promised Savior. They were to intended to lead people to listen carefully to the message of eternal salvation He had been sent as God’s Prophet to bring. This, however, was not happening. The vast majorities of the people following Jesus were focusing their attention on the things of this world and were simply seeking a miracle-worker to attend their daily needs. Consequently, Jesus decided to leave Capernaum, His base of operations on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. He took His disciples and sailed to a more desolate area on the northeast side of the sea with the intention of beginning a time of private instruction in order to prepare them for His death to come and their work of gospel proclamation.
Such a time of privacy and personal instruction was not to be, however, for crowds of people, supplemented no doubt by travelers en route to Jerusalem for the Passover learned of His whereabouts and flocked to see Him. We are told in Matthew’s account of this incident that upon seeing them, Jesus “was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). While JESUS IS THE PROPHET SENT BY GOD TO HELP US primarily to overcome the great problem of sin, He still was concerned about the physical problems facing those who approached Him. Consequently, after a day of healing had passed and evening was approaching, Jesus, who would help us address every one of our problems, addressed a problem the people faced at that moment—the need for food and asked Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
My dear friends, Jesus came into this world to save sinners that is to save us from our sin, its consequence, death, and its author, Satan. His work of redemption secures for us a right relationship with God and a certain future beyond this life in heaven. What could be more important than that? Yet, at the same time, we may rest assured that Jesus is interested in helping us address every one of our problems. Is He interested in Glenn Hasse’s hip replacement or helping the doctors discover the reasons behind Bob Dellwo’s dizziness and fall? Yes, He is! Is He concerned about Immanuel’s financial picture, or how our college students will be able to pay for their tuition this fall? Yes, He is! Is He interested in helping you solve that especially difficult problem facing you and your husband or wife, or you and your son or daughter? Yes, He is! There are no problems too big for Jesus to help us address, nor are there any problems too small for Him to consider. The apostle Paul encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV). We are not alone! JESUS IS THE PROPHET SENT BY GOD TO HELP US address every one of our problems!
He was sent by God to help us as well explore all of our possibilities! Upon hearing Jesus’ question, Philip, who appears to have been a man with his feet solidly on the ground, began to figure out what it would take to feed over five thousand people. A single denarius, the most common Roman coin of the day, would feed about ten people. Two hundred denarius, which some Bible scholars speculate was the amount of money Jesus and the disciples had in their common treasury, would then feed two thousand people, which if put at half ration would stretch to feed up to four thousand people. But they were looking at over five thousand people counting women and children. It was simply an impossible problem to solve and Philip said so, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” Besides, where in a remote place would you find that much food to buy anyway?
Andrew, in the meantime, had scouted about to see what food might be available among the crowds. He came back with bad news, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” It appeared in the minds of the disciples that they had exhausted their possibilities, when it came to addressing this very practical problem. Yet, they had overlooked the most obvious of possibilities—the possibility standing before them and talking to them, the Lord Jesus Himself. After all, He had spent the day performing miracles of healing—taking care of people’s physical needs, even as they were now asked to address a physical need.
My dear friends, JESUS IS THE PROPHET SENT BY GOD TO HELP US explore all of our possibilities, and yet are we not so very often just like to the disciples. We experience Jesus’ blessing upon our lives in so many different ways on a daily basis, and yet when confronted by new problems, we often fail to explore all of our possibilities. We look to our bank accounts and do all of the math; we scout out all available resources among family and friends; but fail to look to Jesus, the one who possesses all authority and power in heaven and on earth! (cf. Matthew 28:18) The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:31-32, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
This past week I was privileged to work with many wonderful Christian men, women, and young people at the CLC Youth Conference in Benton, Tennessee. Among them was Matt Busch, who shared with me a wonderful story, which illustrates this point. Matt and Julie recently decided to purchase a different home. They found the home they wanted, made an offer, and their offer was accepted. Unfortunately, they had not received an offer on their present home. Consequently, they had to explore all of the possibilities out there to finance the purchase of their new home, while continuing payments on the mortgage for their old home. This, of course, can produce a bit of concern, which Julie voiced, especially in view of Matt’s departure for the youth conference. Upon reflection Matt asked Julie, “When was the last time that Jesus did not provide for our daily needs?” To which Julie responded, “Oh thank you for the reminder!” Having placed the matter in the hands of their Lord, I am happy to report that by last Sunday night the Busches had two offers on their home, which they discussed by phone, and then decided to accept the offer that best fit their needs. JESUS IS THE PROPHET SENT BY GOD TO HELP US explore all of our possibilities!
He was sent by God as well to help us experience His unlimited potential! In order to illustrate to the disciples a possibility they had not considered—His divine power, Jesus asked the disciples to have the people sit down on the grassy slopes of that mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. He then took the five loaves and two fish, blessed them, and after giving thanks asked the disciples to distribute them to the crowds. An amazing thing happened! The very limited resources Jesus blessed multiplied to the point that the hunger of everyone there was satisfied due to His unlimited power and potential. In fact, after everyone was satisfied, Jesus directed the disciples to gather up the leftovers—twelve baskets of the fragments of the bread and fish—much more food than had been present in the first place! What a wonderful illustration of the power of Jesus! What a testimony to His person! He was, the people there concluded, “truly the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
Unfortunately, while the people understood the point, they failed to go on to make proper applications. Our text tells us that the people apparently began speaking among themselves and suggesting that they take Jesus “by force to make Him king.” What was wrong with that, you might ask? Is not Jesus a King? Do we not learn in confirmation, that Jesus is a Prophet, Priest, and King? Yes, we do, but Jesus is a King who rules by His grace and through His Word in our hearts. He is not and never intended to be an earthly king, to whom people would look merely to satisfy their earthly wants and desires with little or no effort on their part! Jesus did not come into this world to be a “bread king,” but rather to proclaim a gospel message of repentance and remission of sins, leading to the eternal salvation of all who place their faith in Him.
I would like to close this sermon with an illustration of the unlimited potential Jesus possesses to help us deal with our problems. This past week a father from Michigan brought his son to the CLC Youth Conference. They were struggling in their relationship, to the point that the young man in his anger had contemplated running away from home to live on the streets of Detroit. The young man expressed his anger and resentment numerous times both publicly and privately to the staff and his fellow students throughout the week. On the final night of our conference, as we all sat around a bonfire, we were asked to describe our summary of what the conference meant to us personally in one word, followed by a brief explanation. When the young man finally stood up, he stated that his word was “awaken.” He explained that he had looked into the eyes of the staff and his fellow students and had seen Jesus—he wanted that. He explained that he had written and said many things in particular about his father, which he no longer wanted to claim. He prayed that from that moment his relationship would changed dramatically. Shortly thereafter the young man’s father stood up and asked permission to speak. He stated that his word was “hope.” He hoped that this past week would be the beginning of a new relationship with his son—a deeper relationship based upon the love of Christ. When he sat down, his son got up and moved over to his father’s side and the two of them embraced.
My dear friends, the story of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is not dusty, ancient history, or a false, religious myth. It is a testimony to the fact that JESUS IS THE PROPHET SENT BY GOD TO HELP US address every one of our problems, explore all of our possibilities, and to experience His unlimited potential! May we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior and truly experience His phenomenal love! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting